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A Handle for Every Mood

Dave's new book, Iron in My Hands

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I sit before my computer, deliriously unloading thoughts and images racing through my mind with a force so great my head throbs and emits a low-grade heat. Not only is my brain on fire, but my fingers sizzle across the keyboard as they work furiously, almost desperately, to match my mental output.

The racket is deafening. I should be wearing earplugs and shin guards, but instead I'm in my sweaty wife-beater, boxers and socks.

Two fingers, the index of both the left and right hands, tap like tiny dancers with pants on fire. I'm knocking out about 20 words a minute, many of which are two syllables and are spelled correctly. Occasionally, an arthritic pinky gets in the way and deletes a whole paragraph of unparalleled, never-to-be-recalled stream of consciousness.

Brilliant, spontaneous thoughts inscribed across a gleaming screen, clarifying moments in time scrolling down a miraculous glass page, illuminating threads of gold laced on an unfathomable technological fabric, erased as if they never were...lost in time and space, dark and light, at the flick of a lagging appendage.

My behavior upon such daunting occasions is observed by no one. Hysterical, beaten, but not broken, I move on.

You have just witnessed a small slice of one harrowing day at the Draper Laboratory and Training Center in Central California.

There are times, believe it or not, when I don't have a whole lot to chat about, new, old or make believe, aka made up from a fake hint of memory. Balderdash, you scoff, the subject matter is limitless: bis, tris, supersets, the list goes on...Vitamin A, B, C, D, E...

And then, of course, the challengers among you point out that I haven't revealed all the secrets buried in the sands of Muscle Beach or the crumbling walls of the Dungeon or the racks and benches of Joe Gold's original Venice gym.

Many have I exposed, but not the last of them. The superior and wonderful secrets, those pertaining to long life and extended muscular achievement -- those I've kept to myself.

Hey, it's my choice. I don't have to tell you everything.

Don't whine. Bodybuilders are like little kids. Fact is, the secret is there are no secrets. Stop brooding.

I loathe brooding, as I loathe leprosy, animal poachers and politicians, convulsions and hemorrhoids, wobbly dumbbells, bent barbells and plate-dragging pulleys. The negatives of life deplete existing muscle stores and prevent new muscle from developing.

For my entire lifetime, at first sign of negativity in my world I went to the gym.

Commit to memory: The onslaught of pessimism -- the woes, the foes, the lows, the nos and Joe Schmoes -- are best fought off with rippin' barbells, rockin' dumbbells and rollin' pulleys.

Pulleys are particularly cool because they have a handle for absolutely every mood and occasion, and because they don't have the immediate look of "heavy," like a barbell or a dumbbell, especially if the weight stack is adjusted to match one's pipsqueak estimation.

It's not the weight we handle, it's the action and focus and attitude we apply. Well-oiled pulleys work best: no inefficient, distracting plate dragging.

Got the blues? Go to the gym. Girl left you? Go to the gym...unless that's why she left you -- too much time at the gym with the iron lady.

Boyfriend left you? Go to the gym...unless you don't want to see him -- because that's where he probably went...

Go anyway.

The gym, where the iron is stacked and the steel is piled and where it builds muscle and might. Yeah, sure it does. You can hoist and scrutinize for months and never be convinced. But that's what they say and you believe them.

In fact, every once in a while, lo and behold, you could swear you detect a bump or a vein or a snugness around the sleeves. And those barbells...they're not as heavy as they were just last month. Not often, but often enough, you have these vague, fleeting, yet hopeful feelings.

That's all it takes...a hint.

You have a favorite mirror, too, the one above the 45-pound dumbbells and especially in the afternoon light.

"Not bad, Dude. Check out the tris when I throw the rascals a subtle flex. The front-on shot is best with a little twist in the hips and the right leg forward. Gotta be cool so you don't look like a dip ship checking out your reflection. Embarrassing. Keep it to a quick glance as you pretend to adjust the plates on the bar."

Careful how you walk. Don't swagger, spread your lats or all that kid stuff. You don't want to appear stiff, stuffed, self-centered and silly.

However, never, ever casually saunter past a length of mirror, relax your gut and check out your reflection at the same time. Ill-timed glances can be devastating, the image indelible and the damage long-lasting. Be alert always.

I've spent a lot of time in a gym. Not all that time was I physically in a gym, but in the gym within my mind. I have created a huge training area in what feels like the central cortex of my brain. Bars and plates everywhere, beastly platforms, hefty benches, dark corners, well-lit floors, lots of air and a couple of friends.

When in doubt, when I need stimulation, when joy and laughter are limp and need refreshment, if ever a pump is deflated or a burn grown cold, I enter the mental hall and grasp a bar loaded with memories from a rack full of recollections where I go to play. Or I lie down on a bench, in my head, stare at the ceiling and count the sets and the reps of the days gone by.

Gadzooks, Peabody, it's two PM and I've missed my Sunday training time slot. Too much frivolous poking at the keyboard and not enough time in preparation for my workout. Oh, no! Ah, geez! Oh, crap!

Guilt, doubt, failure, defeat, misery -- woe is me, a victim of my own irresponsibility and carelessness. I have only one recourse: Toss myself at the mercy of the iron.

Never say never, unless you say, "Never quit!"

Dave



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